I met Wes at my gym. We got talking and decided to go for a drink. Both in our 40’s, he wasn’t my usual type but there was something about him. Over the next three weeks we met numerous times. I was beginning to really like this guy.

Then I found out via a mutual friend that he had been in prison! He had only been out 4 months! I was shocked.  Some things he’d said then made sense; He had no passport!  He’d spent time living with his sister! Lack of possessions!

So, I asked him and yes it was true. I was totally gutted, devastated. I have a responsible job in education and 2 teenage children, how could I carry on seeing him now?  Prison, crime and the world he’d moved in were totally foreign to me.

His crime was bad. I Googled him and there he was – a criminal. The local newspaper painted an awful picture but somehow I just couldn’t connect the two men together. I didn’t know this man in the newspaper. I only knew the funny, kind, caring man I’d been dating.

I ended the relationship, but I just felt so sad, it didn’t feel right. He too was disappointed with my decision, but understood.

But I couldn’t sleep for a week, I tossed and turned and felt so unsettled. I confided in a few close friends, most of them warned me to steer clear, told me I’d made the right decision. I did some research, read things online, looked at the Unlock website and forums.  I then spoke to my sister- in-law who’s a probation officer. I was surprised at what she told me; “talk to him, ask him about his life, and find out about his sentence and the terms of his license”. I was surprised by her positivity. She told me many people turn their lives around after release from prison.

So I decided to see him again. I asked him why he hadn’t told me the truth, asked him what his license terms were, where he’d been in prison. He was honest. He apologised and admitted he was struggling to find a way to tell me about his prison sentence. After all how on earth do you tell someone (new and that you’re developing feelings for) that?

Over the past seven months he has met many of my immediate family and some of my friends. Most have accepted him. I have lost a couple friends because of my decision to carry on seeing him. These so called friends have never even spoken to me about Wes and have never even met him. They are fools! Narrow minded, judgemental and hypocritical. I don’t need people like that in my life. They aren’t friends.

Wes wants to move on with his life, he’s served his time and needs a chance to rebuild his future. In the time I’ve known him he has only ever been  hardworking, caring, kind, loving, supportive and generous.  I’ve learnt so much about myself too during all of this, I don’t judge people so quickly anymore, and people need another chance. Life is so short, I think if you mess part of it up, you need the opportunity  to make the remaining bit worthwhile.

On Valentine’s Day Wes sent me a card, inside it simply said ‘Thank you for believing’.  It made me cry.

By Carla (name changed to protect identity)

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